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Breathe Initiative Transitions to Independent Local Nonprofit Organization

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Oct. 26, 2017 – The Breathe Project, a web and social media platform developed by The Heinz Endowments to increase community awareness about Pittsburgh’s poor air quality, has completed its transfer to local nonprofit, the Air Quality Collaborative.

Since the Endowments launched the project in 2011, the foundation has invested more than $20 million in scientific research and an array of initiatives to provide nonprofit organizations and the public with data and resources that reveal the true extent of the region’s air pollution, and its adverse impact on public health and well-being.

“The Breathe Project has reached a stage in its development where its continued growth will benefit greatly by moving under the auspices of an independent nonprofit, and in the Air Quality Collaborative, it has the perfect partner,” said Grant Oliphant, President of the Endowments.

“Breathe has transformed the way that our community understands the causes and dangers of Pittsburgh’s air problems. The program has been an outstanding success, but there is still much work to be done to create an environment that is clean and safe.

“The fact is that air pollution remains a toxic yet mostly invisible hazard for individuals and families living in southwestern Pennsylvania, especially the young and the elderly.”

The Breathe Project’s transition to the Air Quality Collaborative will place the program under the management of a strategically-aligned organization, said Andrew McElwaine, the Endowments’ Vice President for Sustainability. “As part of a robust and independent nonprofit, our Breathe initiative will be able to find and develop its own powerful and distinctive voice,” he said. “Now is the right time for the Project to move on in order to move forward.”

The Air Quality Collaborative operated initially as an informal membership organization for research institutions, environmental organizations, and concerned citizens convened by the Endowments to support the activities of groups working for clean air. Earlier this year, the Collaborative became an independent nonprofit organization “with a shared commitment to advocate for the air our region needs for Pittsburgh to be a healthy, prosperous place to live.”

The Breathe Project was developed under the leadership of the Endowments’ Phil Johnson, Director, Environment and Health. “Over time, the program’s focus strengthened considerably as results began flowing from scientific research that we funded showing levels of air pollution, how it travels and its association with serious public health issues,” he said. “Most importantly, the program has energized grassroots efforts in campaigning for better air.”

According to a report by the American Lung Association (ALA) Pittsburgh ranks in the top 10 most polluted cities in the United States and Allegheny County is one of only three counties east of the Rockies that does not meet EPA standards (according to EPA data) for particle pollution, for which it is graded “F” by the ALA.

Scientific research has associated fine particle pollution with asthma, autism, reproductive issues, cardiovascular illnesses and premature death. EPA analyses of air toxics, another class of pollution, place the region’s cancer risk in the worst one percent of the nation.


For information contact:
John Ellis
The Heinz Endowments
412 338 2657